Our Opinion: ICE crackdown is a waste of resources

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Undocumented immigrants are being swept up in raids and targeted arrests across the country following the current administration's crackdown on illegal immigration.

In Vermont, three undocumented workers — and members of Migrant Justice, an organization that advocates for immigrants legal and otherwise — were arrested last week. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, denied targeting the three members for their public advocacy of migrant rights and their outspoken opposition to the dictates of the current administration.

Gov. Phil Scott and Attorney General TJ Donovan have both affirmed they will not assist the federal government in "rounding up" undocumented workers in the Green Mountain State, and considering the bluster coming from the present administration, it's not a huge leap inferring the arrests were "payback" for the state's opposition.

Donovan told VTDigger he sees no evidence that ICE is targeting activists and he would not speculate about the agencies' motivation until he has more information. "I think for me the question is more about strategy in terms of the promotion of national security and public safety. I have concerns. That's casting a very wide net. Specifically to Vermont, these migrant workers are a critical part of our agricultural economy."

Will Lambek, of Migrant Justice, doesn't see it quite the same as Donovan. He believes Vermont has a "rogue ICE agency" targeting leaders in the immigrant community. "It's obvious that the local ICE office is looking to discourage immigrants in Vermont from organizing for their rights and dignity by attacking the only organization led by members of their community. They're hoping to break the community's spirit by targeting its leaders," Lambek told VTDigger.

The raids and the arrests, Mizue Aizeki, deputy director of the Immigrant Defense Project, told the Intercept, are part of a broader expansion of militarized policing in the name of homeland security that has disproportionately targeted certain communities more than others. "Typically ICE will go to people's homes in the early hours of the morning, using SWAT-like tactics. They refuse to identify themselves or use deception, like claiming to be `police,' in order to get into people's homes or find the person they are looking for."

While John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, applauded "the heroic efforts" of his agents in conducting raids across the country, we question how courageous one has to be to round up farm workers, nannies and hotel maids, especially when your are armed with the latest and greatest in military gear.

As Donovan noted, is this a wise use of the limited resources we have available? In case you haven't noticed, the United States is suffering from a serious crime wave, and it's not being committed by undocumented workers. Thousands of Americans have died and are dying due to the scourge of heroin, which is finding its way into every strata of our society. The people who are distributing heroin are the ones we should be focusing our efforts on, not undocumented workers who are picking apples or milking cows or, God forbid, advocating for their rights in a public manner.

Our local and state law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed in trying to root out the distributors of this deadly drug; we commend those officers who, without military garb, go undercover or conduct surveillance to gather the evidence necessary to put these real criminals behind bars for a long time. This is where we should be allocating our resources and not toward rounding up people who have done nothing more than want a better life for themselves and their families.

If you are wondering what you can do to support undocumented workers in Vermont and across the country, there will be a solidarity demonstration tonight from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Pliny Park in Brattleboro. You can make direct calls to Vermont ICE director Jeff Curtis at 802-527-3801 and 802-309-1206 and the Boston Field office at 781-359-7500 to demand the immediate release of Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanchez, Zully Victoria Palacios Rodriguez and Alex Carrillo. You can also contact lostriverrj@gmail.com or therootsjc@gmail.com and ask how you can help.






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